The odds seem to be improving that new Red Room author Barack Obama might become the first African-American U.S. president. But what is really important is that he could also become the eighth or maybe even eleventh or more left-handed U.S. president. After all, left-handers are probably the world's largest minority.
There is a reason for the uncertainty as to what number left-handed U.S. president Obama would be. There is one list that puts it at six: We know that James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were/are lefthanders by images of them signing and vetoing bills.
But how people sign doesn't determine handedness. After all, for centuries lefthanders were "taught'' to write right-handed (though it's extremely unlikely any natural right-handers were taught to write left-handed), often "encouraged'' to make the switch by teachers whacking their left hands with a ruler (happened to Cole Porter -- he developed a stutter, never learned to write in cursive, jotting his beautiful lyrics in a kind of calligraphy).
I began thinking about this when, recently, I saw an old Ronald Reagan Western film poster, and he was drawing a gun with his left hand. So, of course, he was a left-hander who was taught to write right-handed. And, to back this, I found a list of left-handed presidents that makes it seven, including Reagan.
But there were probably more. For instance, how do we know Washington wasn't a lefthander? We don't have a photo of him throwing a coin across the Potomac, but if we did, maybe it'd show him tossing it southpaw with a definite left to right spin. We do know, for some reason, that Ben Franklin was left-handed, but he didn't have presidential ambitions, preferring, instead, to go fly a kite.
The greatest left-handed presidential campaign, by the way, was in 1992, when Bill Clinton went up against H. Ross Perot and George H. W. Bush, lefties all (If you recall, the oratory was magnificent). The right-handers in that campaign have been totally forgotten, at least in this corner.
Incidentally, some notable left-handed writers include James Baldwin, Peter Benchley, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Jean Genet, Steve McQueen and Diane Keaton. Oh, sorry, McQueen was, and Keaton is, an actor. Still, some actors, left-handers Charlie Chaplin and W.C. Fields most noteworthy, were also writers in a sense, being so creative in their material (Well, really, Chaplin also wrote most of his scripts, as well as composed the music, come to think of it).
But again, as with the presidents, there is no telling how many writers were forced to change their writing hand. Left-handers might be able to claim Tolstoy and Charles Dickens. Maybe Pushkin and Moliere. Who knows? Perhaps in that little second-floor class room in Stratford-Upon-Avon, some teacher got young Will Shakespeare to switch his quill from his left hand to his right hand, tormenting the young man into becoming the world's greatest writer.
In any case, as we can see, Obama's in excellent company. And he didn't let anyone change his writing hand. That takes strength and character.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...